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There are 1,175 reviews of The Circle on the Amazon page and the current rating sits between three and four stars. I’m giving The Circle five stars for concept and three stars for execution—an average of four. So there you go, giant data vacuums in the sky. Feel free to note and record for future use.
The Circle is long. I enjoyed Eggers’ earlier Hologram for the King for its relatively spare delivery and Zeitoun (non-fiction) was a story told in highly-distilled fashion. I wished for some brevity in The Circle; the story took a long time to get where it was going.
But the idea is strong—as “The Guardian” called it, “a deft modern synthesis of Swiftian wit with Orwellian prognostication.”
In short, the focus of the novel is a company called The Circle but it’s more than a company it’s an ethic, an approach, a philosophy, a lifestyle. It’s the big eye in the sky, an omnipresent monster tracking device of the future designed to digest and analyze every hiccup and stray thought. The Circle puts your entire online world into one easy-access port.
By merely existing, of course, every individual who plugs in represents a data point and, as we all know now, all data have value. The Circle is a collective. It’s data cruncher of epic proportions. The Circle is ambitious. It wants the future, it owns your past, it wants every moment of “now.”
The “Star Trek: Next Generation” episode about The Borg came screaming to mind. “Resistance is futile.”
Into The Circle walks relatively naïve Mae Holland and it’s through her slow awakening that we are shown how The Circle works and this section felt slow and a bit repetitive as she gets schooled in how to become a model employee. She doesn’t quite understand how to completely engage. Nor does she quite understand the degree to which she’s being watched. Monitored. Observed. Rated.
Once Mae assimilates, the story picked up steam and developed more visceral tension. Just when you think The Circle can’t find new ways to consume every moment of life, Eggers ramps up the stakes. On one side, utter transparency. On the other, complete loss of identity. Life in a fishbowl? The aquarium subplot came across like a tired trope but Egger’s imagined Borg-like monster seemed like a natural outgrowth of what’s happening today. And that’s the most frightening thing of all.